Getting Kids Educated
Education has received a fair bit of attention in recent months. The governments school building program has regularly featured in the media, as has their promise to deliver computers to secondary schools. And in the lead-up to the election, Julia Gillard pledged to provide bonuses to teachers who perform the best, and cash rewards for the top performing schools.
While opinion may be divided about the way the government has conducted some of its recent education schemes, the basic premise behind their decisions would appear to make sense; making sure that kids get a decent education.
But the best buildings, teachers and technology are meaningless if kids dont go to school.
Truancy has long been a problem, particularly in western NSW and south-west Sydney. Truancy refers to school-aged children who frequently miss school without a valid reason.
The Education Amendment (School Attendance) Act took effect in January 2010. The law says that children between the ages of 6 and 15 must attend school or be registered for home schooling. They can leave at the end of Year 10 if they are 17 or older, or if they are entering into another form of education, paid employment, or an apprenticeship. They must also have satisfied the relevant school participation requirements.
One of the underlying principles of the Act is that parents are primarily responsible for ensuring their kids go to school. Before January 2010, the parents of truants might have received a fine. The penalties have become significantly tougher.
Now the Department of Education and Training (DET) has the authority to seek information about why kids are absent, and disclose information to the Court, without violating privacy laws. Any relevant institution or person may provide information to DET about a childs absence. The Childrens Court can make a Compulsory Schooling Order, and if parents violate it repeatedly, they can be fined as much as $11,000. The Court can also order that an institution provide services to the parents or child, such as compulsory parenting classes.
Julia Gillard recently proposed, if re-elected, to introduce a No School No Play program, banning truants from playing weekend sport. The program would see that children who regularly attend school receive rewards, such as coaching sessions with well-known sporting figures.
While this seems a good initiative for sport-loving kids, its unlikely to have much effect on non-sporting types. And its sad that we have to resort to bribery. Presumably if the government rewarded kids who completed Year 10 with an iPhone or an Xbox wed see a dramatic rise in attendance rates.
Still, a combination of ideas to encourage kids to go to school can only be a good thing. Time will tell if the new truancy laws have the desired impact.